Finally able to catch his breath, Max recapped his morning. It had started like any other with his quiet radio alarm going off at four-twenty; he slapped on the snooze button and fell back asleep almost immediately. Then he hit it again at four twenty-nine, this time turning it off for good. Why did snooze buttons only add nine minutes to your sleep; why not some normal amount of time like ten minutes or even better fifteen minutes, why nine? That seemed random to Max. He quietly left the bed doing his best not wake Sarah, his wife of fourteen-years.
Like a blind man, he navigated his way through the darkness around the queen-sized bed and out the door into the hallway towards the bathroom. He had showered, shaved, gotten dressed and was out the door by five. Max had his routine down perfectly.
As he drove his red nineteen ninety-four Toyota truck to work he listened to his radio station WWEB. As usual, there was a sports show on re-capping yesterday’s scores. Max enjoyed listening to morning DJ, Blake 'the snake’; he was hotheaded, opinionated and usually irritated the hell out of Max. Despite this Max tuned in religiously to his show on the drive to work. Living in Colorado, Max should have been a Rockies fan but Max was intently listening for the score of the Dodgers/Cubs game. He had always been a Dodger's ‘faithful’ ever since he transferred from Western State College in Colorado to the University of Southern California - a move that had cost him dearly in student loans.
"Cards five, Reds three," the voice on the radio announced.
At this time in the morning, traffic was minimal. Max drove his way through the neighborhood streets onto Wadsworth, a main street that ran north and south through the towns of Westminster, Arvada, and Wheatridge. Crap, red light, Max used the delay to adjust the knob on his radio to try to get clearer reception. Glancing up from his radio, he noticed what looked to be a homeless man, a drunken homeless man from the way he was slowly staggering towards the truck. Still waiting for the green light, he watched the poor soul and wondered how this man had become homeless. Had he been fired or maybe he had mental problems that didn’t allow him to hold down a normal job?
“Ahhh hell, here he comes looking for a handout.” Max's charity ended at feeling sorry for the homeless, not giving them money. “Change, change, change” Max chanted to the red light. The homeless man slowly put one uneasy foot in front of the other and continued on his path toward Max. Green light, Max, felt only elation, as he stepped on the accelerator and sped off towards the on ramp to interstate seventy.
The engine responded and the needle on his speedometer started to move from thirty-five to forty. Max leaned into the curve and then straightened out the truck preparing to merge onto the highway. The speedometer now read fifty-five miles per hour. Max would soon be hitting eighty as he passed the all too familiar exits; Sheridan, Federal, Pecos, and finally, what Coloradoans called, the 'Mouse Trap'. Exactly where the two major interstates married, a single accident could bring all the traffic to a halt. From here, he could see the first rays of the sun starting to make their way over the horizon. Max turned the steering wheel of his truck so that he could merge onto the other highway, interstate twenty-five, and head south.
"Braves six, Mets zero."
Max had a busy day planned; there was usually a full day of work to be done on a Friday before the long Fourth of July weekend. Since Monday was a holiday he figured that most of his colleagues would be gone today extending their vacation. Less people around meant that he might actually get something accomplished.
"Astros four, D-backs one."
Max enjoyed his early morning drive to work. Sure, there were other vehicles on the road, mostly trucks - delivery trucks, Fed EX, UPS, Hostess, guys drinking coffee from large plastic travel mugs driving F150's with their companies name stenciled on the door. Contractors, subcontractors, and consultants he speculated. Who else would be up this early in the morning? Max was none of the above. He was a computer programmer for the MAC Corporation and just liked to get an early start to his day so that he could avoid some of the ever-increasing traffic.
"Pirates eleven in a shootout over the Giants with nine."
Max had worked for the MAC Corporation for four years now, one more year and he would be vested in his retirement plan with the company and he would also receive fifteen days of vacation a year in lieu of the usual ten that a new hire was awarded. That is why he was working today. It was only July and Max had already spent six of his vacation days. Moreover, his philosophy was, why take a day off when no one else was going to be around? Save it for skiing this winter was his plan.
"Jays seven, Yankees zero."
Crap, the radio announcer had moved on to the American League, he must have missed the Dodgers score. No, Max was not your stereotypical computer programmer. He was not over weight; he showered, tried to eat healthy, and had interests in things other than Sci-Fi movies and the latest computer games. Not that such ‘stereotyped’ programmers existed anymore anyway, nowadays being a programmer was just another way to make a living. Max's four-wheel drive truck allowed him to enjoy all that the Colorado outdoors had to offer. He hiked in the summer and skied in the winter. On these trips, he usually went solo. Sarah had other interests to keep her busy, although she had camped with him from time to time. Max did not mind going alone or with his son, it gave him time to think about life and enjoying silence was one of the reasons he went.
Glancing down at his watch, he read five thirty-three. Not bad, he was about ten minutes away from the Tech Center where the MAC Corporate building was located and he would only be a little late this morning.
As he returned, his attention to the road ahead of him Max could see red and blue lights flashing in the early morning light. A cop and instinctively he hit the brakes and slowed his truck down to the posted speed limit. The police officer had his cruiser parked on the shoulder of the road behind some unlucky motorist. Max couldn’t resist taking a quick glance to see what was happening.
The police car was parked behind a white four-door sedan. The driver’s door was open but Max could not see the owner of the vehicle. Or the cop for that matter. Maybe they were on the other side of the car changing a tire. Perhaps, in the dim morning light and based on the fact he was doing fifty-five miles an hour he had just failed to notice them. Either way, Max was happy it was that guy, and not him, who had gotten the early morning ticket.
The last ten minutes of his drive were uneventful as he passed the usual landmarks - Mile High Stadium, the Gates Rubber factory and a few other exits before finally getting off the freeway. A few minutes later Max had turned into his normal parking spot and killed the engine. Even though there were a hundred or so, empty parking spaces Max always steered his truck to the same spot every morning, Monday through Friday. It was one of those "creature of habit" kinds of things.
As he walked towards the side employee entrance that provided the shortest distance from the parking lot to his ground floor cube, Max went over his to-do list for the day. First, he had to email his buddy and see if...
"Max! Did you hear me? The dispatcher wants one of us to go to the main entrance and wait for the police. Since I am on the phone that leaves you, get going, I think I hear sirens."
That is how his day had begun, simple, quiet, normal. It had now evolved into something as far from his daily routine as he thought it could get. Pushing open the door to the hallway, he wondered what he would find next.